Interview of the Week: Kyle Barrow

This week’s interview is with Boston Badgers coach Kyle Barrow.

SHL Digest: We’re talking today with the newest member of the SHL coaching fraternity, Kyle Barrow!  Kyle, thanks for talking with us.

Kyle Barrow

Kyle Barrow: I’m excited!  It’s a fun opportunity.

SHLD: For the last few years, you’ve earned a reputation in the SHL as the one hot assistant who wasn’t looking to move up.  You were the assistant coach in Anchorage, and it seemed like your name came up every time there was a coaching vacancy, but every time, you pulled your name out of the search.

KB: (laughs) The international man of mystery!

SHLD: Obviously, this led to some theories.  One was that you’d been promised you would succeed Sam Castor whenever he retired as coach of the Igloos.  Another was that you were waiting for just the right opportunity to make your coaching debut.  So tell us: What’s the true story?

KB: Honestly, you [reporters] and my mom have a lot in common.  When I was single, she was always asking me when I was going to settle down and get married.  And every time I got asked about head coaching, I heard my mom’s voice in my head.  “When are you going to find a nice team and settle down?  You know you can’t be an assistant forever!  It’s not healthy.”  For a while, I was getting it with both barrels!

SHLD: The cycle of nagging, basically.

KB: (laughs) Love you, Mom!  But you know it’s true.

SHLD: Shout out to Kyle’s mom!

KB: The truth is, the answer was the same in both cases: I just wasn’t ready yet.  I was still learning things from Sam, and I felt like if I left too soon to take a coaching job, I’d miss out on some good lessons.

SHLD: So you’ve decided that now you’ve learned enough.

KB: Really, Sam decided it.  He’s been nudging me for a while now that it’s time.  And when Boston came calling, I was going to turn it down.  But Sam said, “I really think you should give this one a shot.  You’re ready for this.”  So I listened, and here I am!

SHLD: It’s interesting that you make the analogy between coaching and your romantic life, because as you announced this week, you’re a trailblazer in that area: you’re the first openly gay head coach in professional sports.  Why did you choose to announce it now?

KB: I felt like it was the right time.  For a long time, my attitude was that it was my own business.  I didn’t go out of my way to hide that I was, but I didn’t go around talking about it.

SHLD: Did people on the Igloos know?

KB: Sure.  Sam definitely knew; he’s met my husband!  And some of the players knew.  No one had a problem with it.  But I didn’t see the need to talk about it publicly.

SHLD: What changed your mind?

KB: It was after my press conference introducing me as the Badgers’ coach.  After it was over, Jim – my husband – came up and told me that he’d wanted to be there, but he hadn’t come because he didn’t want to cause me trouble.  And that got me thinking; if my own husband didn’t feel like he could be there on the biggest night of my life, is that fair to him?  And I thought about how much it would have meant to me as a young hockey player starting to understand who I was, to know that a leader in my sport was gay too, and it was okay.

SHLD: How has the reaction been?

KB: It’s been great.  The players have told me that they’re behind me, and that it won’t be a problem in the locker room.  And the public reaction has been supportive, too.  I’m sure there will be some knuckle-draggers on the road who try to give me crap about it, but who cares about them?

SHLD: Oh yeah, before we forget, you’ve got this new team too!  What do you think of them so far?

KB: Oh, right, them!  (laughs)  I’m really excited about the group we have.  We’re still in the learning stages, but I can’t wait until we get rolling!

SHLD: Sounds good!  Well, thanks for the time and a thought-provoking interview.

KB: I’m glad you asked!

SHL Season Begins with Scoreless Tie

The 2020 SHL season officially started just after noon Eastern time on Sunday, when the Hershey Bliss and Boston Badgers faced off at the Chocolate Center.  Prior to the game, the Bliss started a pool on which player would score the season’s first goal, recording their predictions and dollar amounts on a white board in the locker room.  C Justin Valentine and LW Lance Sweet were the most popular picks.  In the visiting clubhouse, the Badgers didn’t have a similar pool going, but their players were equally aware of the possibility.

“Scoring the first goal of the season… that would be a really awesome way to begin,” said C Alain Beauchesne.

Little did the Badgers or Bliss realize that 65 minutes would pass without either team lighting the lamp.  No one collected on Hershey’s first-goal pool, as the game ended with the same 0-0 score as it started.

“You know how they say that a tie is like kissing your sister?” said Bliss coach “Chocolate Chip” Barber.  “This game was like marrying your sister.”

Both teams had their chances to score.  In the first five minutes of the game, Valentine and RW Christopher Hart got loose on an odd-man rush.  Hart fed the pass to Valentine in the slot, and the center fired a shot toward the upper-right corner of the net.  Badgers goalie Roger Orion, though, stuck out his glove and snagged the blast.

“I was already counting my winnings in my head,” said Valentine ruefully.

Later in the period, Hershey D Wayne Snelling was penalized for interference, putting Boston on the power play.  Badgers LW Lix Darnholm fired a laser beam of a shot from the top of the left faceoff circle.  Bliss netminder Christien Adamsson got a piece of the shot, but it trickled behind him toward the goal line.  Fortunately for the Bliss, Adamsson fell back on the puck before the Badgers could jam it home.

After a fairly sleepy first forty minutes – Hershey had 14 shots across the first two periods, and Boston only nine – the action picked up in the third.  Unfortunately for both teams, the frustrations piled up as well.  On three separate occasions, the Bliss fired shots that hit the post, two of them by Sweet.  On the Boston side, C Derek Humplik fired a shot that beat Adamsson, but pinged off the crossbar.

“It just seemed like there was some invisible force keeping it out of the net,” said Badgers coach Kyle Barrow.  “It was pretty annoying.”

In the overtime session, Boston dominated the play, outshooting Hershey 6-1.  But they still couldn’t dent the scoreboard.  The closest attempt was a Beauchesne slapshot that sailed just above the net.

After the game, Barber praised the play of Adamsson, who turned aside all 25 Boston shots in his Hershey debut.  “This is exactly what we brought Christien here to do,” said Barber.  “It’s not his fault that we couldn’t provide him any support.”

“Definitely a weird way to start the season,” said Valentine.  “But you just have to put it behind you and move on.  It’s not like we’re going to go scoreless for the whole season.”

Continue reading “SHL Season Begins with Scoreless Tie”

Badgers’ Thanksgiving Dinner Ends in Free-for-All Food Fight

Like the SHL’s other 11 teams, the Boston Badgers opened training camp this week.  Thursday was Thanksgiving Day in America, and many of the players were spending the day apart from their families.  In order to ease the sting for them, the Badgers held a team-wide dinner for the players and staff at Shawmut Arena.

“We thought it was a nice way to show our appreciation for how hard they work, and to get ready for the season ahead,” said GM Jody Melchiorre.

Little did Melchiorre know that the dinner would ultimately degenerate into a food fight, as the players blew off steam by flinging Thanksgiving staples at one another.

The team began the morning with a scrimmage, their first time on the ice at Shawmut since the end of last season.  The scrimmage was intended to be no-contact, but the players ignored those instructions, gleefully throwing checks and body-slamming each other to the ice.  Ds Jurgen Braun and Brody McCallan even traded punches briefly.

“The practices the last couple of days have been pretty rough, so I think there was some pent-up energy there,” said McCallan.

After the players showered and dressed, they gathered in the arena’s club level for a sumptuous Thanksgiving feast prepared by the team’s catering staff.  The spread included turkey, ham, cornbread stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, and much more.

At first, the players and staff tucked into their plates with vigor.  But then the players began chirping at each other about the scrimmage, and voices eventually grew louder.  (It should be noted that beer was one of the beverage options.)  Eventually, the disagreements turned physical.

According to sources, RW Rory Socarra was the first one to send the food flying, flinging a spoonful of mashed potatoes in the face of RW Jorma Seppa.  Socarra denied that he started things, claiming that Seppa had chucked a roll at him.  Regardless, it served as the starting gun for what one player described as “a scene straight out of Animal House,” as food and liquid quickly filled the air.

By the time the dust and gravy had settled, the players and the suite were caked in food.  Team sources say that it took two days so completely clean the walls and tables of food.

The story probably would have remained inside the locker room, were it not for the fact that several players videotaped the melee and posted it on social media.

“Obviously, this isn’t what I had in mind when we decided to do this,” said Melchiorre.  “But I probably shouldn’t have been surprised.  This is a fun-loving and pugnacious bunch, which is usually a good thing.  But I’d prefer if we directed that aggression at our opponents instead.”

New coach Kyle Barrow, meanwhile, enjoyed himself thoroughly.  “Best Thanksgiving ever!” he quipped.  “That first week back at practice is always tough for guys, and this was a good way to let those feelings out.  Nobody got hurt and everybody had fun, so that’s a win in my book.”

Barrow had only one regret about the incident.  “I got hit with cranberry sauce on my new blazer, and I don’t think that’s going to come out,” he said.  “Next time we have a team dinner, I’m bringing a poncho.”

For his part, LW Lix Darnholm didn’t understand what all the fuss was about.  “I’m from Sweden, and we don’t have Thanksgiving,” Darnholm explained.  “I thought maybe this is how you celebrate in America.  Everyone get together to throw food at your family.”

Badgers Hire Igloos Assistant Barrow as Coach

The Boston Badgers have never finished out of the Eastern Division cellar, but they have grand ambitions for the 2020 season.  After spending a lot of money on free agents – led by G Roger Orion and LW Pascal Royal – last season and planning to pursue the market’s top names again this year, the Badgers intend to contend for the playoffs.  With that goal in mind, Boston hired the most sought-after assistant, the Anchorage IgloosKyle Barrow, to be their new head coach.

“We looked hard to find the right guy,” said Badgers GM Jody Melchiorre.  “And the more we talked to Kyle, the more we knew he was the right guy.”

Kyle Barrow

The 42-year-old Barrow definitely has the championship experience that the Badgers want.  Working alongside Sam Castor on the Igloos bench, Barrow has been to four SHL Finals and won two.  Although Anchorage is best known for its high-powered and fast-paced offense, he traditionally focused on the team’s defense, which has traditionally been very good.  During his introductory press conference, the coach expressed his desire to make Boston strong on both ends of the ice, using the Igloos as an example.

“What’s made the Igloos such a strong team over the years is that we can play any style of hockey, so there’s no one way to beat us,” Barrow told reporters.  “This team has been built around defense and a grinding mentality, but there’s plenty of offensive talent here – Lix [Darnholm], Alain [Beauchesne], Pascal – and there’s no reason we can’t become a two-way threat.”

Barrow has long been talked about as a head-coaching candidate, but until this point, he had a reputation for turning down opportunities.  He had withdrawn himself from consideration in previous coaching searches in Dakota, Washington, and Saskatchewan.  This led to speculation that he was being groomed as Castor’s successor in Anchorage.

So why did he choose to pursue this job?  “There’s so much to learn from Sam; he’s one of the best in the business,” said Barrow.  “I wanted to soak up as much wisdom as I could.  But after this past season, we talked about my future, and he agreed that I was ready, and it was time for me to take the leap.”

Barrow replaces Cam Prince, the Badgers’ inaugural coach, who was fired after two seasons at the helm.  In addition to the Badgers’ poor results on the ice, Prince seemed overwhelmed as he oversaw a locker-room culture that deteriorated badly over the course of last season, culminating in a fight between two of the team’s defensemen.

Barrow believes that winning is the best cure for the team’s chemistry problems, but he also stressed the need to instill a culture of professionalism. “When you’re on my team, your first focus needs to be on winning and improving your game,” he said.  “We’re all adults here, but first and foremost, if you’re not here to play hard and win, you’re out.  It’s not about being a taskmaster or running day-long practices, it’s about making the basic commitment to win.  I’m confident that our guys will get on board.”

Can Barrow’s winning experience be the missing ingredient for a team that finished 33 games out of a playoff spot last season?  That remains to be seen, but Melchiorre remains confident.  “I think we’re going to shock a lot of people out there,” the GM said.  “mark my words: this team is getting ready to take off.”